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The Testament of Gideon Mack Hardcover – March 22, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (March 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067003844X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670038442
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,793,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Robertson offers in his absorbing American debut (two novels have been published in the U.K.) the cleverly framed autobiography of a Scottish minister who confronts the devil. A brief foreword claims the book is an autobiography penned by Gideon Mack, a Church of Scotland minister who, after allegedly encountering the devil, becomes a pariah and madman before disappearing. Raised by a harsh minister father, Gideon abandons faith at an early age, but later discovers it's possible to "be a Christian without involving Christ very much" and secures the pulpit at a small coastal church where he proves to be a gifted preacher. After his wife dies in a traffic accident, Gideon consummates a long-held obsession with old friend Elsie, whose husband, John, is also a longtime friend. A conflicted Gideon, while walking with another minister, falls into a gorge and is presumed dead. But he appears downstream, only slightly injured, three days later. His survival is miraculous, but his account of what happened is scandalous: he was saved by the devil. Gideon's struggle to find meaning in his experience leads to his undoing. Gideon's sly unreliability is cloaked by Robertson's mastery of language and command of the elements of fiction; the combination is addictive and captivating. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gideon Mack is a good man and a good minister . . . on the surface. Underneath, he is an atheist, he covets his best friend's wife, and he believes that life is basically meaningless. He keeps up the facade until first a huge stone appears in a clearing where there was no stone before and then he falls into the Black Jaws, a ravine with a raging river running through it. Presumed dead, the town is agog when three days later he washes ashore with an amazing tale about being tended to and entertained in a cave by the devil himself. He is, of course, suspended from his kirk and shunned by the town and eventually disappears again. When his body is found, there is also a manuscript, which is sent to a publisher, creating the framework for this story. Award-winning author Robertson makes his American debut with this thought-provoking and intelligent novel. More a discussion of humanity than divinity, it will capture and hold the reader's attention long past the last page. Elizabeth Dickie
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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The results are a mesmerising novel that I had a hard time putting down!
L. Massingill
I couldn't put it down, and when I finished, it was like a really good movie; you keep thinking about the characters, the story, the questions long after it's over.
Julie
James Robertson has written the most interesting, poignant, and thought-provoking novel I have read this year.
Alan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Roy E. Perry on April 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Martin Buber asserted, "The atheist staring from his attic window is often nearer to God than the believer caught up in his own false image of God." And Friedrich Nietzsche observed, "A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything."

In The Testament of Gideon Mack, Scottish writer James Robertson deals with these themes: faith and doubt, orthodoxy and heresy, the overlap of myth and history, and life's uncanny conjunctions.

Gideon Mack is the minister of Old Kirk, in the small Scottish coastal town of Monimaskit, near Dundee. A pastor beloved by his parishioners (most of them), he has raised thousands of dollars for charity by running in various marathons.

Judging from appearances, one would esteem Gideon a successful servant of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland, toiling faithfully in the Lord's vineyard.

Trouble is, Gideon is an atheist (or agnostic) whose apparent faith in God is a theatrical performance. He is also carrying on a torrid affair with the wife of his best friend.

Nevertheless, all goes well for Gideon until one day, while he is running in the Keldo Woods, he stops abruptly when he sees an ancient standing stone, a stone that had not been there before. From that moment, his life begins to go downhill.

While walking again in the Keldo Woods, this time with a female minister friend, Gideon attempts to rescue his friend's dog that, in chasing a rabbit over the cliff, is perched precariously on a narrow outcropping in the rock.

Gideon saves the dog, but cannot save himself. He plummets into the treacherous depths of the Black Jaws, a gulf or ravine of great depth, through which cascades the furious torrent of the Keldo River.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Reader from Singapore on November 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
James Robertson's "The Testament of Gideon Mack" is quite the most wonderfully engaging and satisfying work of fiction I have read in a long, long while. Considering the duds that made the Booker shortlist last year, I'm baffled as to why it made the longlist but went no further.

Gideon Mack, son of a Calvinist minister and himself a Presbyterian minister in the small Scottish village of Old Kirk, is a secret unbeliever. He ministers faithfully to his parishioners and preaches every Sunday to his flock without believing a word of what he's saying. In short, he is a spiritual imposter and a charlatan. Being a minister is just his day job. Yet, why is it that we can't help but come away with the feeling that he isn't remotely the hypocrite the above suggests he should be ? Could it be that we ask ourselves, how could anyone growing up in a family where the father (himself a man of the cloth) is as unnaturally severe and closed-minded and the mother as downtrodden and deflated as Gideon's be expected to believe in the institution of marriage and family and have faith in the existence of a loving God ? Sadly perhaps, the instruments of God are often his worst advocates.

Ironically, it is Gideon and not his religious colleagues or openly agnostic friends who are chosen to experience the spiritual awakening vis-à-vis an amazing encounter with the Devil during those missing hours between the time he fell off a cliff into the gushing waters whilst trying to rescue a friend's dog and the time he's delivered back into the arms of the living. The sudden appearance of a standing stone in Keldo Woods, a phenomenon though not exclusively visible to him but in fact observed only by him - is a spooky precursor of his strange encounter with the horned one.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Daniel A. Scott on September 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It was mystifying and powerful all in one and I'm not even sure why. It draws you in and builds to the breakng point and yet it doesn't let you down when it's over. The author left the end open for interpretation and didn't spoon feed it to us. The whole time I was reading it a somber feeling was in the air. It felt like one of those fall days when it seems to have a constant drizzle and the only thing to do is curl up in a corner and relax, that's the feeling I got with that book. Whether that helps somebody want to read it, I couldn't say.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By L. Massingill on April 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the story of Gideon Mack, a son of the manse, raised in a cold and stark childhood and who is dominated by a minister father. He claims to have met the Devil during a period when he falls into a river and is missing for 3 days. The ensuing manuscript he writes, of his life and metamorphosis, is the basis for the book.

James Robertson has taken a story of the supernatural, religion and myth and wove it into the tapestry of a small Scottish village. The results are a mesmerising novel that I had a hard time putting down! It was thought-provoking and reverberated with me for days after the last page was turned.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alan on August 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
James Robertson has written the most interesting, poignant, and thought-provoking novel I have read this year. His use of writing the novel as a sort of annotated manuscript provokes, in addition to its plot, the theme of faith. His characters are superbly conceived. The dichotomy of Gideon Mack, the protagonist minister who may be more devout than he would like himself to be, and his father, who Gideon so stubbornly insists he is nothing like, is interesting, especially near the end of the novel. These and many other qualities that other reviewers have given for you to read this novel, SO READ IT!
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